Kidnapped film-makers recovered in southern Philippines

Nadjoua Bansil and Linda Bansil

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines - Two Filipina documentary film-makers, kidnapped by Al-Qaeda-linked Muslim extremists in the strife-torn southern Philippines, were recovered by authorities on Thursday after eight months in captivity, a military statement said.

Despite her ordeal, Nadjoua Bansil said she and her younger sister Linda would return to making movies about marginalised communities.

"We will rest for a while but we will continue in our independent film-making," she told reporters in the southern city of Zamboanga where they were taken after their recovery in Jolo.

The two women were recovered on the island of Jolo as authorities were conducting a search for them, the military said.

Jolo marine commander Brigadier General Jose Cenabre said that the kidnappers decided to free them amid the heightened military activity to locate them.

Elder brother of the sisters, Mohammed Bansil also thanked those who "helped" in obtaining the release of his siblings.

However both the military and brother declined to say whether a ransom had been paid for the two.

"Whatever you think about the ransom we cannot answer that. Suffice to say that we safely recovered the victims," said the local military chief, Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero.

Nadjoua, then aged 39 and her sister, then aged 36, were seized by members of the Abu Sayyaf group on June 22 while working on a film about the impoverished residents of the heavily-forested island of Jolo.

Relatives had appealed for their release saying they were daughters of a deceased sharia court judge.

The women, both wearing long dresses that covered their faces and entire bodies, said they had lost a lot of weight during the time they were held by the Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf group was founded with seed money from Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. The US government has officially designated it a terrorist organisation.

The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history as well as many kidnappings of foreigners and Filipinos, often demanding hefty ransoms.

Other Abu Sayyaf factions are believed to be holding other hostages, including two European bird watchers.

Despite the military's efforts, the group has remained active and on Sunday, a Filipino engineer and his wife were kidnapped in Jolo by suspected Abu Sayyaf members.